Three Encounters with W.G. Sebald
The latest issue of the Journal of European Studies (vol. 44, no 4, December 2014), contains a section called “Three Encounters with W.G. Sebald (February 1992 – July 2013),” edited by Richard Sheppard. Sheppard also provides some introductory remarks. (The complete Table of Contents for the issue can be found here.)
The first encounter is a reprint of Toby Green’s 1992 revealing interview with Sebald called “The Questionable Business of Writing,” accompanied by a new introduction by Green. This first appeared on the Amazon.UK website, where, somewhat surprisingly, it can still be found.
The second encounter is a transcript of a reading held October 15, 2001 at Kaufmann Concert Hall, Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York City. After brief introductions by Hanna Arie-Gaifman, David Yezzi, and André Aciman, Sebald came onstage to make some remarks and read a section from his the-newly published Austerlitz. Then Susan Sontag replaced Sebald onstage and read from two essays: “Homage to Halliburton” and “Answers to a Questionnaire.” This was followed by an audience questions and answer period with both Sebald and Sontag. Sheppard has provided a complete transcript of the remarks by all of the speakers, omitting only the published texts from which Sebald and Sontag read. A video of Sebald’s reading is available here.
In the final encounter, Sheppard provides his own translation of an introductory talk given by Jürgen Wertheimer before he and others read from Austerlitz at the Academy of the Spoken Word, Stuttgart, on July 3, 2013. Part of Wertheimer’s message is:
We must not allow Max Sebald to become a canonical author. For when a writer has been canonized and no-one dares to laugh any more for fear of looking silly in front of the cognoscenti,that is when he or she is really dead.